Mayor to propose lake safety upgrades for Allan Yorke

Following the drowning death of 16-year-old Quentin Boggan two weeks ago, Mayor Neil Johnson is planning to propose a series of possible changes at Allan Yorke Park in an attempt to prevent another tragedy at Lake Tapps.

During the July 3 city council workshop, Johnson updated the council on a series of ideas he is working on, ranging from additional signage to the removal of the park’s floating dock.

Johnson said he began working on the list of ideas after Boggan’s death and following a meeting with Melissa Thomas, a friend of the Boggan family who has taken up the cause.

Johnson said many of the ideas on which they working were “promising” but no decisions or final recommendations are ready to be made yet.

The easiest of the ideas include freshening the paint on the concrete dock in the swimming area to make sure warnings such as “no shoving/pushing” and “no diving” are easy to read, as well as potentially adding multiple “swim at your own risk” warnings.

“It’s very inexpensive but a great way to catch someone’s eye,” Johnson said.

Johnson also suggested adding four larger “no lifeguard on duty” signs to remind swimmers, as well as possibly adding new signs to show the water temperature and explaining the risks associated with lower temperatures, such as hypothermia.

The mayor said he is working on a cost estimate of such a proposal, but added that Cascade Water Alliance, the company that actually owns Lake Tapps, is interested in partnering with the city.

Johnson also said the city is looking into the costs involved in setting up a 911 call box at the park for instant access to first responders in an emergency.

Johnson also suggested the possibility of removing the floating dock, which  he called “problematic.”

“It may be time for the floating dock to float away,” he said.

Johnson also suggested several additional educational opportunities, such as partnering with schools to create a “Lake Tapps Awareness Month” in April as the lake is being refilled. He also suggested adding a “lake awareness” section to the city’s Bonney Lake Days booth.

Councilmember Mark Hamilton, who chairs the council’s Public Safety Committee, said the committee had a similar discussion as well the night before, including the possibility of lifeguards, but said police and fire reminded the committee that lifeguards, while certainly helpful and potentially lifesaving, may not have prevented Boggan’s death.

Boggan drowned June 21 while swimming at the park with friends. Witnesses said the teen, who knew how to swim, slipped under the water and was below the surface for three to five minutes. Friends and family dove in and pulled the boy to the shore where they began performing CPR until East Pierce Fire and Rescue paramedics arrived. The medics continued CPR and transported Boggan to a hospital in Tacoma, where he later died.

Hamilton said the committee was warned that Lake Tapps is a cold and dark lake due to its being fed by glaciers melting on Mount Rainier.

Johnson also pointed out that American Lake in Lakewood also had a drowning last year, and that one occurred within 20 feet of a lifeguard stand.

Police Chief Dana Powers, a national champion swimmer and former lifeguard, said a lifeguard at Allan Yorke Park would certainly provide an extra set of eyes on the water, but that might not have been enough to save Boggan, given the quick response and knowledge of CPR those who pulled him possessed.

Powers also commented on the dark nature of Lake Tapps and difficulty in finding someone who may have sunk to the bottom.

“It’s so very different in a lake,” she of lifeguarding compared to a pool situation.  “Just trying to find someone down there is very lucky.”

Powers also said Boggan’s drowning is the first at Allan Yorke Park in decades.

Powers recommended parents and swimmers at Lake Tapps learn about the dangers swimming at the lake and make sure all children get swimming lessons.

“Education, education, education,” she said. “I think that’s the biggest component.

“Respect the water.”